Who remembers 2008?
Remember when public servants made irresponsible and unsustainable financial deals with a view to enriching themselves massively?
Remember when firefighters tipped Lehman Brothers over the edge?
Remember when nurses took the Royal Bank of Scotland to the edge?
Remember when it was the fault of teachers that there was no financial regulation?
No. Me neither.
So why should they pay for a crisis not of their making with the rest of their lives? The fact is that under the pension reforms, those who really have enriched our society in some way; who educated us, who treated us when we were sick, who rescued us when we were in danger, they are going to be forced to pay for the crisis made by the banks for the rest of their lives.
The Tory press has again constructed the narrative of public sector vs. private sector pensions, pay and conditions. There may be a difference, but that’s not to say that the way forwards is to drag everyone down to the lowest common denominator - this isn’t Greece, you can’t retire on 80% of your salary in the public sector either.
But you know something, this strike isn’t irresponsible, the unions could potentially win - the public support is with them. The latest polling suggests that whatever the Tory press says, around 50% of the population back the strike action on June 30th, with only 35% against. That’s a hell of a lot clearer mandate than Cameron got.
Which leads to the second reason they may win - Cameron isn’t out to take a tough line on the unions - he doesn’t have the legitimacy or the political capital to crush them. Thatcher may have beaten the Nation Union of Mine-workers, but she was at least reasonably popular - with majorities in parliament. Also, this isn’t 1984, not everyone alive today is embittered by the strikes of the 1970s that brought the country to its knees, public opinion isn’t as strong as it was against the unions.
But thirdly, and staying with Cameron, I don’t think he wants to be seen in the same light as Thatcher, indeed for him, Thatcherite though he may be deep down, he doesn’t want to be seen as the unflinching ideologue that Thatcher was. That would be toxic to him, as are all comparisons to Thatcher. Cameron worked hard to try and get rid of that uncaring, cut off image of the Tory Party, and so, unlike the Iron Lady, Cameron is most certainly for turning. And he may turn again in the face of these strikes.
Let us hope so, at least. And good luck to anyone reading this who will be on a picket line tomorrow!